I am the shame pole

Jan Fabre


Performance, 00:32:00.

Tokyo, MOT Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

For his first performance in Japan in the eighties Jan Fabre had been pelted with tomatoes. In 2010 he invites the audience to throw tomatoes while he recites all the titles of the exhibitions, performances and theatre productions he presented in Japan.


'Today I arranged the room in the museum
where tomorrow
I shall be doing the performance I am the shame pole.
As a backdrop, from wall-to-wall, I'm using an
enlargement of a twenty-year-old photo
showing the head curator Yuko Hasegawa,
dressed in traditional kimono,
and myself in a three-piece suit, both in the kendo
sitting position.
The floor is covered with a grey dance mat with a
pile of typical Belgian cobblestones
in the middle.
I will stand on top of them dressed in
a grey suit by Martin Margiela.
A white cord will be stretched in front of me from
wall to wall. From the other side of this cord
the Japanese public are permitted to pelt me
with 5000 overripe tomatoes.
(And if they don't want to throw them at me,
they can throw the at the photo of my Japanese
Joan of Arc, Yuko Hasegawa.)'

(Jan Fabre, Tokyo, 28 October 2010)

'I have withdrawn into my modern Japanese shrine.
For three hours -in the restaurant, in the hospital and now
in this superb hotel room -I have spent my time with a plastic
bag full of ice cubes on my private parts.
My dearly beloved balls are still swollen and very painful.
The Japanese public (I had specifically only invited artists,
curators, actors, dancers, directors and choreographers)
was not at all modest, retiring and exaggerated in their
They were extremely enthusiastic during my performance
of I am the shame pole.
But I had bad luck:
the Museum staff had not bought 5000 overripe tomatoes.
In spite of the fact that 'overripe' was an important word
(lost in translation)
because an overripe tomato is soft and immediately bursts.
Instead of that the 5000 tomatoes felt like stones.
I managed to hold out to the bitter end purely by concentrating
on my lines (a list of dates, places and titles of performances
that I had put on in Japan).
Until the excessively giggling and extremely enthusiastic
Japanese art public pelted me with the final tomatoes.

At the moment I feel miserable, but I'm very happy to have
continued a tradition.
(The first time I did a performance in Tokyo, in 1984, I was
pelted with tomatoes very politely.)'

(Jan Fabre,Tokyo, 29 October 2010)


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